- The Storried Platform
TIME WILL TELL – By Liz Ajala
It had been a long hard journey for Grace. Contrary to her name, she didn’t seem to have enjoyed any grace at all. Life had been plain hard. She could hardly remember a time in her life when she had not struggled. Struggled to finish school while battling with health challenges, struggled to finish service, where she almost lost her life to pneumonia and the harsh weather and here she was, struggling again to get a job.
As far as she was concerned, life was not meant for her. ‘Why was I even born into this wicked world?’ She thought to herself. This was one question she asked daily but was yet to find the answer. Grace sighed as she pushed back her seat and stood to stretch her legs after 4 long hours of data entry on the old desktop computer supported by a tattered pile of files. The air had a damp smell mixed with the stench from the nearby gutter.
She had been volunteering at the Local Government population office for six months now and was getting fed up with all the paperwork, the cramped office, and noisy environment. All these she could endure if only the staff would not send her around so much. Grace still remembered the look she had been given when she walked into the office that beautiful Monday morning with her well-ironed white shirt on clean but worn black skirt and sandals.
‘Young lady what did you say you are here for again?’ The elderly clerk asked her for the third time with a puzzled look on his face. ‘I am here to volunteer Sir’. She said as confidently as she could, hoping that the plastic smile on her face was enough to mask the butterflies that had gone crazy in her stomach. What if they laughed at her and threw her out? What if they completely ignored her or worse still thought she was crazy.
Well, she knew that she did not look one bit crazy and was sure a little scornful laughter wouldn’t hurt her as much as the loneliness she had to deal with daily. On the contrary, it would make an exciting story to tell her children one day, that is if she ever got to have any…… she sighed. The elderly clerk peered at her over his thick glasses with surprised by warm eyes. “Come over here my dear and seat down,” he said.
Grace was so relieved that she stammered a ‘Thank you Sir’ and quickly went to the nearest seat before her legs decide to buckle beneath her. In that second, all her fears and anxiety disappeared and she took a deep breath. Finally, the gods were smiling down on her and there was a ray of hope in her dark clouds.
Six months later, here she was, still working for ‘Free’ as the Local Government staff usually teased her. But she was busy, she had made a few friends too and most importantly found a father in Mr. Ani, the elderly clerk whom she had met on her first day.
Mr. Ani was 63 years old, just about her father’s age if he had lived a bit longer. To Grace, he was the most cheerful person on this earth. One who could see the good in every situation no matter how ugly. No one quite knew how long he had been working at the Local Government office because he was the oldest staff yet he could not retire because he had become one with the job.
It was even rumored that he wouldn’t last long after retirement because he would probably die of loneliness. His wife was late and his children all grown and struggling to make a living in different parts of the country. To Grace, he was more than an office clerk. He was a father, a friend, and a mentor. Every day she had her lunch at his desk listening to his stories of the ‘good old days’ laced with wisdom and counsel.
She could pour out her pain and frustration to him and he would, in turn, listen patiently to all the complaint she had. He would then respond with many words of hope and encouragement. Over time, he had become her pillar and source of strength. Her only reason to give life another chance. Six months down the line, she had acquired some computer and office administration skills, not to mention the simple but effective data management system that she designed and managed for the records department. Her people skills had improved also, especially after a few face-offs with one or two of the corpers at the office who were only too happy to hand over their tasks to her while they hung out with friends.
Grace thought about her mum as she picked up her handbag and walked towards the open office to say her goodbyes for the day. Her mum had 7 children of whom she was the 5th. Grace could not bear to see her struggle anymore as the constant suffering had taken a toll on her health lately. This was one of the reasons Grace had moved to Lagos after NYSC. She desperately wanted a better life for mum and remaining in Calabar was not going to get her that. She looked forward to the day when she would be able to return home empowered to meet her family’s financial needs and return with her younger sister and last sibling, Alice to school in Lagos.
Her immediate younger brother was already a mechanic apprentice in the town and was doing well for himself. But that was certainly not the life she wanted Alice to live. She had made all A’s in WAEC and deserved an opportunity to further her education.
In 6 months’ time, it will be one year and time for her to return home to fulfill her promise to her mum. Six months… will she have gotten a job by then? How about an accommodation of her own. ‘Well, time will tell’… She reminded herself of Mr. Ani’s words. Whenever she asked a question about prospects for the future, he would look into her eyes, smile, and reply, ‘Time will tell my dear… time will tell, you just do your best’.
By Liz Ajala
It had been a long hard journey for Grace. Contrary to her name, she didn’t seem to have enjoyed any grace at all. Life had been plain hard. She could hardly remember a time in her life when she had not struggled. Struggled to finish school while battling with health challenges, struggled to finish service, where she almost lost her life